I'd heard a lot of guttural muttering coming beneath from the floorboards of my apartment (that's where I get all of my news) that 2019 was going to represent a sort of comeback for J-Horror, aka the Japanese Horror wave of movies most popular about 15 years ago circa The Ring. You know, lots of hair and cellphones, that sort of thing. But the two films I've seen at Fantasia Fest this year that fit that bill -- Hideo Nakata's Sadako which I already reviewed here, and Hirotaka Adachi's Stare, which I am right now in the process of reviewing -- have turned out to be duds and disappointments, so I'm starting to doubt those floorboard voices. Bad floorboard voices!
Anyway in the grand tradition of J-Horror Stare is really a haunted fable about Japan's high suicide rates when it comes right down to it -- it tells the story of a group of cursed young people trying to figure out why their friends and neighbors have begun dropping like flies. Their detective work takes them to a rural town, incest, etc etc. There's an admittedly good and unsettling twist at the heart of Stare's fiendish hair demon, who rings a bell and creeps every so slowly up on you, eyes too big for any one person's skull -- good enough I won't give it away. And there's a lot of exploding eyeballs, which are always welcome.
But mostly Stare is filled with the same indifferent characterizations that've haunted the lesser realms of this genre of films outside of its highest highs -- nothing we don't also see in say American Slasher Films of course, with their archetypes carved in stone before getting carved up by the choice maniac of the day. This just never feels like a new moment for J-Horror -- I never had a single moment like I did with Ringu 20 years ago, about ready to crawl right on over the back of my seat into my neighbor's lap, crying for my mommy. I don't think that's too much to ask if we're gonna go there. I just wanna be scarred for life, dammit!